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Home renovations & Home Insurance

Planning on renovating your home? Or, buying a new home and planning extensive renovations before moving in? Well here are some important points to consider concerning your home insurance.

Home renovations can increase the value of your home, help keep it in good shape or provide you with that extra living space you want. No matter the reason for your renovation, you need to let your insurance broker or agent know about your reno. Some renovations can even create a discount in your insurance. Quite often an endorsement for renovations will be added to your policy during the period of construction. Make sure to discuss the possible exclusions or limitations with your broker so that you understand the changes in coverage during the process.

Most homeowner policies include replacement cost for the home itself. If you increase the value by doing renovations you may find yourself with inadequate coverage.

If your home is going to be vacant for any period during renovations, even if the workers are going to be there on a daily basis, it’s very important that your broker be informed. A vacancy permit from the insurance company may be required.

Don’t be shy about asking your contractors for proof of insurance and find out who will be responsible for getting the building permits. Tell them that you require a certificate of insurance before you agree to sign the contract. If the contractor is not properly insured, you could find yourself liable for the cost of damages and injuries.

So the best renovation plans include talking with your insurance advisor about the changes that plan to make sure that your home is properly covered. Wouldn’t you hate to have something catastrophic happen to the house after you’ve spent a lot of money on getting it just the way you want it just to find out that those changes may not be covered because you didn’t inform the insurance company?


Mark Carruthers is a Registered Insurance Broker with Pioneer Insurance Brokers in Kitchener, Ontario. [email protected]

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The following tips will increase your confidence in your ability to take back control of your life.

1. Determine The Size Of The "Opportunity"      

Problems are actually opportunities waiting to be discovered. Adopting this attitude will help you see that you can make choices that will positively impact your life.


Action: recognize that not all debt is equal.  Classify your debt by the interest cost of the debt. The highest interest cost debt is the first opportunity to pursue.


2. Follow The Money

You’ve likely heard the expression “follow the money”. Begin by reviewing your expenses. When expenses exceed income, savings reduction, debt accumulation or both is always the result.  Next, what opportunities exist to increase your income?


Reducing your expenses is often easier than increasing your income. 


Action: make a monthly list of expenses for each of the past 3-6 months and categorize each expense as either “must have” (example: food) or “like to have” (example: entertainment).


3. What Are The Viable Alternatives?

It is easy to get “locked” into your behaviour as it is related to how you spend your money. Your past experiences have shaped your habits and consequently your beliefs about the future . 


Be willing to confront your past behaviour by changing saving and spending habits.


Action: Identify less expensive alternatives for some “must have” and “like to have” purchases with the objective of reducing your total spending.  Establish a savings goal.


4. Start Small

Provide yourself opportunities to succeed. If you start with a small change in behaviour, you can experience success more quickly and provide yourself with needed encouragement.


Action: eliminate one or more small expenses from your “like to have” list.  Use the savings to reduce high interest cost debt and/or increase savings.


5. Celebrate

It is important to recognize the progress that you make on this journey. Keep the celebrations small but do celebrate. They will become a habit that you’ll want to repeat.


Action: set a modest goal that you can achieve quickly. Take the necessary action to achieve your goal; have a small celebration and then repeat the process.


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Cleaning Tips For Selling Your Home

Cleaning Tips for Selling Your Home


Everyone knows you should clean your home before you list it for sale but are you only touching the surface? When it comes to the sale of your largest asset, it is crucial that you deep clean your home top to bottom as buyers will be looking everywhere.


Here is a list of commonly forgotten about areas that definitely need to be cleaned:


  • Vacuum, sweep and/or mop every room in the house. Be sure to move furniture also.
  • Clean all bathrooms. You want to make sure they sparkle and shine. Be sure to do a good job on showers, tubs and toilets as buyers want to see these personal areas be as clean as new.
  • Wipe down bathroom walls, especially the spot underneath where your towels hang. Water often gets splashed onto the wall while we’re drying our hands and it drips down, leaving marks.
  • Clean all mirrors.
  • Clean all sinks and faucets.
  • Clean windows inside and out. Buyers WILL notice dirty windows. This includes blinds. Blinds build up dust very easily so don't assume they are clean.
  • Check all light switches and ensure face plates are clean.
  • Kitchen cupboards – clean inside and out.
  • Clean all doors, especially the knobs and handles.
  • Dust all furniture.
  • Dust in the corners of the each room to remove any cobwebs.
  • Wipe down all trim, you’ll be surprised at how dirty this can get.
  • Clean all appliances inside and out.


By following the above list you will have a sparkling clean house that buyers will appreciate. You should also go over this checklist on a weekly basis while selling to ensure your home is clean for all Open Houses and showings.


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Home Staging in 3 Steps

Home Staging in 3 Steps


Part 1 is the Staging Consultation. Whether Occupied or Vacant, the Home Stager will meet with the homeowner and go room by room to address the current condition of the home. We will provide a full, detailed report with recommendations for the homeowner to complete in order to prepare their home to be listed for sale. This could include, and is not limited to, painting, cleaning, de-cluttering, updating, neutralizing, depersonalizing, organizing, reconfiguring and removal of furniture and accessories, exterior, landscaping and curb appeal improvements. We are able to walk through the home with “Buyers eyes” and make you aware of the things that buyers will notice. The report also includes an Open House and Showing checklist for the homeowner to refer to before their home is viewed by potential buyers. We will also include a proposal outlining the investment of going forward with showcasing the home.


Part 2 is Completing the Recommendations. The homeowner is responsible for completing the recommendations outlined for them in the Consultation Report. This crucial step prepares the home for part 3 of the Home Staging process. It is important to address any repairs or updates needed to improve the overall condition of the home. If necessary, the Home Stager can supply the homeowner with a list of tradespeople who can assist them in completing these tasks.


Part 3 is Showcasing the Property. This is when the Home Stager returns to the home and completes the transformation. A team of Home Staging Professionals will go to work placing furniture, artwork, accessories, lighting and other necessary design elements to showcase your home at its best and brightest. We use our training and experience to highlight your home’s best features in order to attract the best buyers who will bring you the best offer. We take into account how each room will show in MLS photos as well as how buyers will navigate through the home during showings and Open Houses. 


In occupied homes, we are able to work with the homeowner’s existing furniture and accessories to better market each room. We are also able to bring in an assortment of pieces if necessary.

In vacant homes, we are able to supply all furniture and accessories necessary to showcase the home.


Showcasing can be completed throughout the entire property or just the impact rooms, meaning we can work with all different budgets.

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Send Me Your Wish List

Your Dream Home Wish List 


If you’re thinking about buying your next home or your first home, a wish list can be very helpful to me as your realtor.  When I search for properties for buyers, I am able to drill down a little further and get more specific with a home than a consumer is able to view on, so by sending me your wish list, I can make sure that properties that have what you are looking for are sent to you immediately. 

In Kitchener Waterloo, on any given day there are over 1200 homes listed for sale, by sending me your wish list, I’m able to narrow that amount of listings down to a manageable amount and show you the homes most fitting to your needs and block out any of the white noise from properties that just don’t fit.

When making your wish list I do suggest that your items are categorized into items that you NEED to have and items that you WANT to have and items that would be NICE to have.  This will allow me to meet all your needs immediately, such as number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, price, and location. 

Once I’ve met your needs on a home, I then look for wants, such as finished basements, size of garage, white cabinets in the kitchen, I know that when you are looking for your 2nd, 3rd or even final home, the wants are very specific, since you’ve lived with items you have hated in the past.  Please don’t be shy when providing me with those wants, this is your home and I’ve been tasked to find it and don’t worry, I will! 

Once we’ve found a home that has all your needs and your wants (if it fits the budget) then we can look at the nice to haves, I often look at the nice to haves as items that add value to the home that you are purchasing, but they are also items that if you needed to add them later, you could.  This could be something like a hot tub, a certain type of flooring, maybe even a finished basement (depending on your handy skills).  The nice to have items I often don’t search for in the search criteria, but would be sure to point them out when choosing between more than one home. 
I do caution first time buyers not to go too overboard on your needs and wants, remember to keep your budget in mind so that we can find a realistic home.  If you happen to have a lot of needs and wants, by all means include them so I can look for the dream house, but all choose your top 3 in each category, these are items that you could not live without!  I also like to remind first time buyers that in some cases, the place they are renting or even their parents’ home may be nicer than their budget allows, but not to worry about size all the time, believe me, when you own your own home, no matter how small it is, you will make it yours and feel so happy to have your first home. 

When I look back now to when we were looking for our first home, I cringe to think of the things we would have settled on, but I know we would have still been blissfully happy…for a few years.  If your plan for your first home is more than a few years, please let me know that, I can assist with getting a home with better resale value down the road and one that will allow you to enjoy it now and your returns later when you sell.

No matter which stage in the home buying process you are, send me your wish list and share all your dreams with me, my job is to make those dreams a reality.  I look forward to seeing your wish list and helping you in the future.

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Most homes that are listed for sale are still lived in by the Seller until the home is sold; however many homes are now listed after the Seller has already moved out and into their new home. The biggest mistake these Sellers make is trying to sell the home while it is empty. Vacant homes feel cold, boring and uninviting and because of this they take much longer to sell. Buyers are not wowed when they tour the home and cannot visualize how they will live in the space.


If you are planning on selling your vacant home, your next step is to hire a professional Home Stager to showcase the property at its best. Here are 8 reasons why you should stage a vacant property:


1. Empty Rooms Appear Smaller Than They Truly Are

  • Many people think an empty room will look larger however the reality is they actually feel smaller.
  • Potential Buyers may think their furniture won’t fit in the key rooms of the home and cross your property off of their list. When Buyers start questioning a home, they usually walk away.
  • People are visual – if the rooms feel small, written dimensions won’t change their minds. Show them a full living room set can fit in the living room and a full queen bedroom set can fit in the master bedroom.

2. 90% of People Cannot Envision Furniture in an Empty Room

  • Home buying is an emotional process – emotions are evoked through seeing the total package, not by empty rooms which feel cold, lonely and uninviting.
  • Buyers will miss out on the true potential of each room without a visual presentation of the space.
  • Don’t narrow down your potential Buyer pool to only 10% of the people coming through the door.

3. Staged Homes on Average Sell 70% Faster Than Un-Staged Homes

  • When selling your home, the goal is to sell it for as much money as possible and as quickly as possible. The longer your home sits on the market, the less money you will make on the sale.
  • When a home has been on the market for awhile, Buyers and their Realtors will wonder what is wrong with the home or the area and may even skip over it when setting up showings.
  • If a vacant home is not selling, the price continues to be lowered in order to entice Buyers, as that is the sole marketing tool. The investment to stage your home will always cost less than your first price reduction. Don’t leave money on the table when selling your largest asset.

4. Staging Puts Money in Your Pocket

  • According to The National Association of Realtors, staged homes typically see an 8-10% return on a 1-3% investment.
  • When Buyers see an empty house, they think the Seller is desperate to sell and they lowball offer. Do you want to attract serious Buyers with serious offers or bargain hunters?
  • Staged homes can usually support a higher list price. Many times after a property is staged, the Realtor will increase the asking price as the features of the home have been enhanced and the overall presentation of the property is better.
  • Studies have shown that Buyers are willing to pay a premium for a home they have fallen in love with. Sometimes this means they will even pay more than the asking price.

5. Staged Homes Photograph Better

  • Over 90% of today’s Buyers start their home search online. Photos of empty spaces do no wow anyone.
  • If a Buyer is unimpressed by your home from the online photos, it is less likely they will even set up a viewing of it. Don’t lose Buyers before they even come through the door.
  • Many homes today are purchased by foreign investors who solely view a property online. Don’t ignore this market. (Think this doesn’t happen in your neighbourhood? Think again. Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge are all listed within the top 5 investment towns in Ontario.)

6. Staging Draws Attention Away From Any Flaws & Focuses Buyers’ Attention on the Architectural & Selling Features of the Home Instead

  • In a vacant home, normal wear and tear will become magnified. Buyers will notice every tiny imperfection and focus on them instead of the great features of the home.
  • Home Staging redirects the Buyers’ focus to the selling features while visually diminishing the flaws.
  • Buyers are looking for reasons to be able to offer less money for your home – don’t give them any.

7. Staging Creates a Lifestyle That Appeals to the Home’s Target Demographic of Buyers

  • Like all types of sales, Real Estate has target demographics and markets. In order to secure a sale, you must know your demographic and ensure you market to them effectively.
  • People don’t buy houses, they buy homes. They shop for houses with logic, but buy homes on emotion. Vacant houses feel lifeless and cold, making it difficult for Buyers to feel an emotional connection. By staging your home to appeal to the target demographic, you will evoke the emotion that will lead to the sale.
  • Buyers only take 10-15 seconds to make a decision about a space! If the property is vacant, there is nothing to keep them interested in staying longer and nothing memorable about it after they leave. Staged homes give Buyers something to stay and talk about. The longer you can keep a Buyer in the home, the better the chance they will find features that they like and visualize themselves living there.

8. Staged Homes Sell Faster in Slow Markets & for More Money in Hot Markets

  • Home Staging has consistently proven to add value to any home.
  • Don’t help sell the house down the street! Ensure your home shows at its very best, target your demographic and outshine your competition.
  • Treat the sale of your largest asset as a real business transaction, because it is one.


Home Staging is a smart investment that is crucial for selling vacant properties. It is a proven marketing tool that brings real results – higher sales in shorter amounts of time. By not staging your vacant property, you are risking having it sit on the market, reducing the asking price, and having it become stale – ultimately costing you much more than the investment for staging ever would.



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Why Neutral Is Best When Selling

Why Neutral Is Best When Selling



Often times when I view a home for the first time during the staging consultation I see rooms painted in bright colours. Accent walls, matching trim, I’ve even seen colourful ceilings! Sometimes the colours work beautifully in the space, highlighting the furniture or artwork that the homeowner has. Other times the colours just aren’t the right hue and don’t work with the fixed elements in the room (cabinetry, built-ins, flooring, etc.)

Regardless if the colour works in the space or not, when it comes to selling your home, neutral colours are best. Bright, bold colours can really take over a room and can be the only thing people take away from that room. They will forget how many windows the room had – “Did it get a lot of natural sunlight?”; How big the room was – “Would our 9 piece dining room set fit in that space?”; Fixtures that will be purchased with the house – “Was there even a chandelier?” Potential buyers will walk away only remembering the bright red walls, and possibly the fact that they hated them. To sum it up, bright colours can be a distraction from what you’re really trying to sell in the space.

When I recommend to a homeowner that walls should be re-painted a neutral colour I often get different responses. A common response is...”But I LOVE this colour! I chose it myself! I get so many compliments from all of my friends!”

Usually the problem isn’t the actual colour itself. I tell them to definitely use that colour in their next home since it’s a fantastic colour. It goes back to the difference between Interior Decorating and Home Staging. What works for Decorating doesn’t always work for Staging. Decorating is about making a room appeal to the homeowner where Staging is about making a room appeal to a broad range of potential buyers who likely have different tastes than the current homeowner. We are also focused on drawing attention to the selling features of each room – size, architectural details and updated finishes. These things can easily get lost when the wall colour in the room takes center stage. Remember – potential buyers coming through your home are on average only spending a minute looking at each room. They will remember what grabbed their attention first, and that’s usually the paint colour if it’s not a neutral colour.

The other response I often get is that it is way too much work to re-paint. That the colour is too dark, it would take primer plus extra coats of paint, that the room is too large, the ceiling is too high and sometimes I hear that they just don’t want to pay for it.

Painting is the most cost-effective investment you can make in your home that will make a huge difference. By painting your walls a neutral colour, you are making your home move-in ready. No matter who buys your house, they will be able to move their furniture in and not have to worry about it clashing with your previously selected paint colours. Today’s buyers want move-in ready homes and are willing to pay extra for them. Purchasing a home today isn’t easy, and many buyers are maxed out financially just buying the property. They have no budget left for updates, including painting. Also, if you think it’s too much work to re-paint – so will the buyer. They will skip over your house to buy one that is already move-in ready.

When it comes to selling your house, it’s best to repaint in neutral colours before listing the property. Save the bold colours for your next home.

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Your Couch is a Beast!


Your Couch is a Beast, is it affecting the sale of your home?


Is your couch so large that it's affecting the sale of your home?  We all know that we want the largest, softest, most comfy couch when we veg out and watch TV.  Cuddled up with our blankets, popcorn bowls, books, remotes, dogs and kids, the need for a large couch space is apparent, but is your beast of a couch slowing your home sale?


Often I find clients trying to fit their furniture in the home for sale and if the furniture in their potential new home is much larger than what they have, they will find it hard to think that their furniture will fit.  Less truly is more, letting people know that there is room for a full couch and a loveseat is great, but they don't need to see your mammoth couch and 2 more matching lazy boys too! 


Here are some tips on picking the right couch for the space that you have:


If you have high ceilings, choose a couch with a tall back or oversized back cushions to help soften the rooms starkness


If you have a small living space, try an apartment sized sofa, or a loveseat paired with 2 chairs to give a conversational space, odds are that people won't notice it's not a full sized couch if it's laid out right


If your space is open and you have it broken into 2 room spaces - consider a sectional couch if the space is large, it will help your mind break up the space into 2 different rooms and make it feel more spacious, there is nothing worse than an open concept home with too much furniture


If you have a lot of furniture, consider removing it for selling your home, take out that bulky couch and matching chair, they take up too much space and probably look worn anyways - that's why they are so great for relaxing, but that worn in look doesn't sell homes.


If you need to rent furniture to make your space work , the small cost for the month that you may need to rent will pay off.  The better your home looks, the quicker it sells and the quicker you can go back to regular life and well, packing!



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Your Photos are Distracting

Your Photos are Distracting


We’ve all heard that your home needs to be devoid of personal photos when your home is for sale, but do you know why?  There are lots of reasons why your personal photos can affect the sale of your property.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen buyers more interested in the family photos on the wall then in the space of your home. I often hear comments such as “oh I think I know them” or “Look at that Mullet! Come here honey and look!”  Not only are they distracting themselves, but their spouse as well and now neither of them is looking at the home.  I can tell you that I’ve been guilty of the exact same thing with funny family photos, but when I ask a client later what they thought of a certain home; they almost always forget what the features were of the homes with the photos.

Your photos may not only be distracting but can give away your motivation for moving, possibly you were just married and there is only one person on title of the home. As a real estate agent/Investigator, I’m able to determine that most likely this home is not the preferred home of the recently married spouse and that he/she is motivated to sell this house to get into a home that belongs to both of them to start their newly married life.  Some family photos can show how many kids you have and how old they are, from that I can tell if a family needs to move since they no longer fit in the home.  Even if they have done a great job de-cluttering to make the home look spacious, the number of people in a home can tell me they are motivated to move for extra space.

A handful of times I have found art to be just as distracting.  In those times, it has been extreme.  For example I was in a home where to artist was the owner and every square inch of the walls was covered in her art and self-portraits, while the art was well done, it was too much and we ended up counting the number of art pieces in the home which totaled over 70 on the walls. 

Another distraction can be the family calendar, some families write very detailed items on their calendars, often very personal details.  I would suggest that all personal items be put away, photos, calendars, artwork and anything else that may distract the buyers or give any insight as to your motivation to move.

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10 Things Your Home Stager Did NOT Learn From HGTV


We get it, you've watched all of the home renovation and home sale shows, read all of the online articles and tips regarding setting up your home to sell, and you have checked off everything on every home selling checklist you could find, so why would you need to hire a Professional Home Stager? We often hear homeowners say, “I don’t need a stager, I watch HGTV all the time, and I know that I need to remove the clutter and the personal items.”


These reality shows have really put the home staging industry in the spotlight over the last few years, and have helped homeowners to better understand the importance of preparing their home prior to listing it for sale. But, while these shows provide the basics of what this preparation involves, they don’t provide the full picture of what it really takes to properly style and STAGE your home in order to evoke the emotional connection that your prospective buyers are looking for.

Your home is one of a kind, and it should be treated as such! You want to stand out from the competition, so why would you use the same checklists as everyone else? Would you clean your own teeth, or would you choose to hire a trained professional to do this for you? Your home deserves the right attention with specific recommendations, geared towards your home, from an expert that specializes in doing just that, in order to highlight your home’s greatest features. So what are these articles and lists NOT telling you? As a Home Stager, these are just a few of the things that we have learned, through our professional training and many years of experience:


      1.      Where to place YOUR furniture so that the room remains open and inviting, while maintaining function and flow


This does not mean simply moving all of your furniture to the edges of the room. This means understanding proper traffic flow, as well as the latest furniture styling trends. We will evaluate what should stay, what should be removed, and where to properly position your furniture to optimize flow, eliminate awkward spaces, and highlight the best features of the room.


      2.      Shelf Styling


By far one of the trickiest decorating techniques to master, this is the art of filling the shelves to catch your eye, without diverting your attention from the room. This means selecting the right size and style of pieces to compliment the space and the shelving unit, and understanding the balance between too little and too much.


      3.     Paint Colour selection


Just because a colour is popular or trendy, does not mean that it’s the best one to use for your home. Colours are selected based on lighting, home style, and the colour of the finishes of the home. Sure, we have our favourites, but each colour is selected to best suit the home.


      4.     What local trades will provide you with the best services, at the best value prices


We have spent a great amount of our time forging valued relationships with highly skilled trades to ensure that you receive quality work, every time. We only work with professionals, and often these professionals will provide special discounts to our clients.


      5.     Where to shop for the final touches and accessories that your home needs


We spend more time than anyone shopping for home décor items and finding the best deals, and we can provide you with some direction on this to help you to avoid driving all around town looking for the perfect piece. Of course, you would save even more time if you hired us to provide you with the accessories and accent pieces that your home needs.


      6.     Which updates/upgrades will most benefit YOUR house in YOUR market, neighbourhood, and price range


We not only evaluate what upgrades and repairs would add to the value of your home, but we look at what will help to increase it’s overall sell-ability – upgrades are not worth much if they’re not the right ones to entice your specific buyers. We consulted on a home once that spent a great deal of money replacing their kitchen, but for their target market, their funds would have been better spent doing other repairs to the home and minor updates to the kitchen.


      7.     How to make a bed


Forget what your mother taught you – making your bed before work, and styling your bed to sell your home are completely different! I can’t tell you how often we see this common mistake in listing photos.


      8.     How to utilize a piece of furniture for an alternate purpose


This does not mean putting an end table in an office and calling it a desk. It’s about thinking outside of the box when it comes to finding the right piece, often within your home already, to fulfill a purpose for a room and help to clearly define the space.


      9.     How to enhance your curb appeal


Yes, cut the grass, trim the trees, and mulch the gardens, we know that you have that covered. But there’s likely more that you should be doing. If your buyers are not engaged with the home before they get to the front door, you could potentially lose out on that sale. We are property stylists, and we want to be sure to create an inviting space, inside and out.


      10.    How to maintain function and daily life, while living in a staged home
      We understand that it’s not easy to maintain a show-ready home, but we have seen it all and are prepared to provide you with easily implementable solutions to help you to get through the day-to-day. Of course the best part is, in a professionally staged home, you won’t have to maintain it for long before it’s SOLD!


The checklists and tips you find online are a great step towards preparing your home, but a Professional Home Stager can provide you with the specific recommendations that will help you to bring in the buyers and sell your home.

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Stephanie Catcher
September 9, 2020
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